Interview transcript: Brandon London, former wide receiver and Super Bowl and Grey Cup champion

Liz: Welcome to the show, Brandon, how are you?

Brandon: All is well. I try not to go too crazy, you know, no football on or no real football, but in terms of having to watch replays and all, but at the same time just try to stay busy, stay productive. Thanks for having me on.

Liz: No, it’s an absolute pleasure to have you on. Obviously, you and I, we have spoken on social media for what feels like ages, so it’s nice to like properly talk.

Brandon: Yeah, it feels like family already because that’s one of the good things about social media is how it can connect people with a like-minded interest all, together, especially with the bond of football. And so, it’s cool. Nice to finally chat.

Liz: Oh, absolutely. And you’ve got some pretty cool accolades under your belt from college to NFL to the CFL, and now your career in media. And how has your experience that, like UMass, like how much did that prepare you for the next level?

Brandon: UMass? It was a constant grind there just because the teammates that I had there, the Victor Cruzes, James Ihedigbo who ended up winning the Super Bowl championship with the Patriots. We had a championship type caliber mentality there. Our head coach, Don Brown, who brought us to a national championship or FCS national championship my senior year, he really got a lot out of us and pushed us. So I think that got me prepared not only for my time and professional football in the NFL and CFL, but also in the media as well. Because you have to carry that same mentality that you had for athletics that you do now in your new life per se.

Liz: I guess it must feel like quite a bit of a culture shock going from like college through to the NFL too.

Brandon: Yeah. I remember my first day in the Giants’ facility, it was back at the Meadowlands, it’s not at that new facility that they have, well, we have now. So I have a suit on. I wore a suit my first day at Rookie camp. That’s when you do the physicals and all that. But I’m walking through the locker room to go, I believe from like one physical station to the next and there’s Eli, I guess he had just finished a workout and he had his workout clothes on. He’s just hanging out by his locker. And I just remember like at that moment I’m like, wow, that’s Eli Manning, this the guy that I played with on Madden and that’s Eli…I’m in the facility, I’m in a locker room with Eli Manning. And he kinda like looked at me cause I was like sitting there, staring for a little bit and like he kinda like looked at him and I was like, and then I like came to and just kept walking. So it’s just a new world, a new experience, but sort of better.

Liz: Did you get quite starstruck then?

Brandon: Not so much starstruck, you know, it because growing up as a son of a football coach, my dad was a  D1 football coach growing up. So I’ve been around college stars who eventually turned into NFL stars as well during that time. So I’ve been on the sideline, I’ve been around well-known athletes my entire life. But it was just that moment for me to where it was like, I’m official now. I’m in the facility, in the locker room, there’s Eli Manning, your journey has officially begun. So that was the moment of awe. I wasn’t star-struck, it was just that moment of pause where it’s like, wow, your journey has officially begun.

Liz: Amazing. And in the lead up to the Giants Super Bowl, I understand that you helped the defense prepare by taking the role of Randy Moss, how did you adjust your own style to help the team prepare?

Brandon: Well, I mean, it was an audition for me. Every day was an audition when it came to being a practice squad player. And for me, every day was the game. So I really tried to take my mind into being Randy Moss and physically make the plays that he made because when you’re on the practice roster, you’re on the scout team, especially at receiver. When you look up at the card, they had the card that’s drawn up the play that the Patriots or whomever team usually runs. And at that time you saw the 81, the route that was highlighted for him, it would be highlighted because it meant ‘throw the ball there.’ It was telling. So it’s telling that quarterback, ‘throw the ball, force the ball in there,’ because defense, when they see this look, they’re going to run this coverage or this blitz that way.

 So, I used to come down with these balls and I’m not trying to knock our first team, our DBs or anything but that’s what made me stick around for so long and the Giants that faith in me is because I would make plays in practice because I was still green, I was still raw coming out of the UMass. So RDD, to this day that we had, Corey Webster, RW McQuarters, Kevin Dockery, Aaron Ross, Jabrel Wilson, James Butler, JB, that entire secondary would tell you, it was like when I used to line up against them that I was going to try and give them the best work and not only for the benefit of the team before me as well, going up against starters, going up against guys who were going up against TO and the real Randy Moss, week in week out, I’m learning and I’m getting better as well. So, it was a blessing to have that year on the practice squad that Super Bowl year and to meet Terrel Owens and Randy Moss and Joey Galloway, Donald Driver and that was all through the playoffs. So it was a fun experience.

Liz: Yeah, I bet it was. And I guess after the NFL, after you moved over to the Canadian Football League, how did the experience of the game compare?

Brandon: The game speed is around the same. It’s a little faster in the NFL because the width and the length of the field is a little bit smaller. So your faster athletes are moving fast in a smaller space as well. That was one thing, but I would say one of the biggest difference than Canada was, and I would tell people is in the NFL a guy would run a 4-3 and in the CFL a guy would run a  4-3, but the difference is the guy that ran 4-3 in the NFL, he’d be about 6’3″ – 225. The guy that ran 4-3 in the CFL tends to be like, you know, 5’11” – 190. So it was the NFL was bigger athletes doing some of the same athletic stuff, if that makes sense at all.

But it was a fun transition because you’re playing in a new league and up in Canada, they love their CFL up there. That’s their NFL. So, week in week out, you have a hundred-yard game score test now and you’re in Toronto and you’re out at Moxies or you’re out at some lounge bars and you look up at their sports center on TSN, which is their ESPN there and you see yourself scoring a touchdown, you know, cause they’re playing plays of the week or plays of the day or something. So I still got that professional football field up there in Canada that five years I was up in Canada, you know, winning a Gray Cup up there as well, which is their Super Bowl. So I got to feel that experience up there as well. And that’s when I started getting into filming little blogs and stuff of some of my teammates and some behind the scenes stuff while I was up there and that’s where my love for wanting to get into media and art came into play.

Liz: Absolutely. And obviously, in Montreal, that kind of meant that you were in a mostly French-speaking region. How was the cultural experience of playing in Quebec for you?

Brandon: Oh, the cultural experience was so dope. That’s just for a lack of better words. I mean, it’s a feeling that kinda turned my mind on to wanting to go see the world. Because when I was up there, I had only prior to that, only been outside the country and that was to London. And that was my rookie year with the Giants when we played in Wembley when we played the Dolphins there in Wembley so I got to go out there with the team for that. But prior to, and then I got to live in Canada, in Montreal, which is kind of its own little world inside of Canada. It’s in that province of Quebec that speaks French. So, you know, not only did I get to be, like I said, be in Canada, but you get to have this cultural experience of all these people on this Island because Montreal is an island, it’s a city on an island. And while you’re playing up there, you’re getting that football experience, but you’re also getting a social-cultural experience up there as well. 

So I think that was a blessing in my life and that because it turned my mind on to something outside of football, it turned my mind into something socially and culturally.

Liz: That’s so cool that you’re like open this whole new kind of like feeling for you of wanting to go explore. That’s really cool.

Brandon: Yeah, it’s like a new world and being there, like I kind of tell people at time, I was just talking to one of my former teammates from Montreal, I was like, being there I felt like I was in a cocoon and not in the sense of in the cocoon, like, you’d trapped, it was preparing me for when I came out the cocoon and grew my butterfly wings or whatever to like flying. And not only to see the world but really explore who I am and who it is that I wanted to be in life, set that foundation. So it was pretty cool.

Liz: And when you look back now, how does it feel to have been part of or around these like championship teams?

Brandon: When you look back at it, there are certain moments within being on those championship teams or just playing football or living your dreams or living your passion in general. There’s just certain moments that hits you. Like they say like before you die, there are moments of your life that flash, I can see a lot of moments in my life flashing from those periods of times of football. But the best part about it is this, what I call like rebirth in life in terms of retiring and moving into other things in life, in media or whatever is. I’m trying to create those same moments within this passion as well. Being able to play football and maybe I didn’t have a name like Odell Beckham Jr. like a big name like that but being able to use professional football as a tool to create another platform for the longevity of life, I think that within itself is a blessing as well.

 Because not only did I have a good time playing it, some good experiences, I did some things while playing and I took advantage while playing to set up the rest of my life as well. So when I look back at my career, whatever, obviously, you would want 10 years in a gold jacket, obviously, that’s what you play the game for. But on the other side of it, you can look at it and be like, Hey, it was football ended up being an investment. You got a chance to use football as an investment. So, you know, smiles all around.

Liz: And what are your biggest memories from playing and was there anyone in particular who I guess played a huge influence on your life?

Brandon: Yes, two moments. One moment; my senior year at UMass, my last home game, not only is it a night game, but it was during the playoffs against our rival University of New Hampshire. Now the FCS team was the 10 at the time. It’s in CAA, but it’s if we won, we’d go to the semifinals the next round for the FCS playoffs. And my grandparents had drove from Hampton, Virginia to Amherst, New York for the game. And that’s the last game they’d gotten to see me come and play with their eyes. They’re still alive, but it’s just after they got old and wouldn’t be able to like really travel to see me play after that to Canada in the NFL and stuff, but they came up after I scored the game-winning touchdown, that game. So, that’s definitely a memory cause my grandfather, you know, he still kinda brings that up from time to time where he got to see that. 

And then the second one would be when it goes back to my rookie year when we played in London. And that’s when I started, I got introduced to Chelsea FC my senior year at UMass, cause my friend would play with Chelsea on FIFA and I’ve never played FIFA till my senior year in college. So he used to always score and he’d be like, Drogba! I’m like, yo, I like this Drogba, dude. So we were in London and we’re walking around downtown and it was like this indoor mall downtown, I can’t tell you what it’s called or whatever, but I noticed like just you just, I don’t know, maybe you know, it’s like this indoor mall. And like all you saw around London was like billboards of like footballers. And I’m like, man, they really love their football over here and so, you know, what we call soccer. So while we were preparing, we were over there for like five days, we got to go to a, I think it’s called Cobham, Chelsea’s training facilities cause we practice there one day and I think we got to meet some of the players. I forget the three players and I think one was Ashley Cole because for the longest he was one of my favorite players on Chelsea. He used to date Cheryl Cole.

Liz: Yeah.

Brandon: I remember one time on TMZ. It was like y’alls TMZ over there. They had a picture of him smoking cigarettes. I’m like, “Oh what are you doing smoking cigarettes, you’re a world-class athlete.” You know, it was just like I’m not hating on him or knocking him, I just remember that feeling when I look, I was like, “Oh that’s weird. You smoke cigarettes, bro?” But we got to meet up, we got to meet some of the players. So I was like, you know what, Chelsea squad is going to be my team. So that’s another memory going over to London and that’s why I love Chelsea. That’s the story about why I love Chelsea FC. And the next time I go over there, I’m going to Stamford Bridge to go see a game because I haven’t been to a game yet.

Liz: Absolutely. Any excuse to watch it, hey.

Brandon: Yeah.

Liz: So after you retired, obviously you talked about how you’d do like little video blogs and that kind of thing. Did you ever see your media career becoming what it is today?

Brandon: Yes because even though when I retired from Canada, I retired and moved out to LA full time and was just like, I want to see what I can do. I still had another year left in my deal in Canada and you know, you’re making good money up there and I just walked away from it. And out in LA was like, even though you would go out for auditions and people would still think, Oh, you’re not raw, I mean, you’re raw enough, you’re too raw for this or you’re not ready for this major production, I was still booking like the little thing by a little thing at a time to like keep me going out there, if that makes sense. So, even though I wasn’t on like Fox or doing national TV or anything like I’m doing now, I would book like a little part in a Verizon commercial here or little part in like a Delta ad or something.

Like, little things along the way that just kept money moving it to continue to train and get on-camera training but to also continue to go out on auditions and stuff like that. So when I got an agent, when I got introduced to my agent, that’s when I started going out on like really good audition and that’s when I got the Giant’s gig and that’s when I started doing the Giants full time. And then there was all the daytime show that I book, but I was still green for that, but I booked it but got released from that. But I got the footage from being on that for a little bit to get me into the audition for this daily blast live show that I’m on now. 

And you know, that little bit of time that I spent on that morning show, not only did I grow but like I say, it got me the tape that I needed to put on a reel to get in a bigger show, which is what I’m doing now. So it’s all a blessing, you know, everything kinda worked itself out in a way, but I still had to go through it, go through the fire to really mold myself as the on-camera host and to really make that transition into this new world.

Liz: Absolutely. That’s it. So like, there is life after football if you make those right steps and obviously that’s something that you built the foundations for, like as you were coming to the end anyway. What kind of advice would you give to a player now who’s I guess coming to the end of their playing career?

Brandon: Coming towards the end; anything and everything that you think you’ve had some sort of interest and passion in, go check it out. Whether if you’re in the offseason right now or whether it’s a class that you want to take or some Ted talks, no matter what it is that you think has tickled your fancy at one point in your life or interests you, go check it out. Like go at least, you know, go ask questions about it to see if that gets you into that new thing, to be your passion. Because you’re going to have to find something to replace that passion with your mind. Also workout discipline. Ooh, when you retired, you got to find some sort of yoga or something because it’s the worst thing in the world, not having to work out to get ready to compete. Like now, you’re just working out just so you can eat junk food and stuff. It’s a different type of motivation. So find a way to keep that motivation.

Liz: Oh absolutely. And you talked about your dad earlier. What was it like, I guess growing up the son of a football coach? Did you feel like any extra motivation or extra pressure to kind of prove yourself?

Brandon: Honestly, no, because I was so immersed in that world. It was just like, that’s the only thing that felt comfortable for me as a kid. You know, that work, being on sidelines and being a ball boy, being around at practice all the time, being on the jugs as a kid, like that was just life to me. My dad used to take us into the facility or weekends when people would be off and we work out and then we break down with him. When he’s writing, like recruiting letters to players, I’ve been writing, I would forge his signature, like write out the address, whatever, and then go and do his signature. And then I would have to lick the envelopes and send it out.

I would do that stuff for him to make money in high school. But I wrote that Michael Vick, Ronald Curry, all those guys back in the day around when he was like recruiting where he was at Boston college and stuff. So I mean, it didn’t feel like any pressure at all growing up, it just felt like that was my life, that was what my life was going to be like. I knew I wanted to play professional football and I knew football was gonna be part of my life, my entire life for the rest of my life or whatever. So it wasn’t even pressure. It’s like hard to explain it, whatever. It’s just, there wasn’t any pressure or whatever. That’s why I’m glad I got the Giant gig because it’s hard for me to watch football in the stands.

Even with my sister, my sister plays the woman’s professional football, even when she has games, I have to find a way to mosey on the sidelines, you know, just to feel it. I need the energy from the sideline, from the field when I watch football, it’s crazy, I’m just so used to it. Like that’s what it is, you know, like, I love it. I’m very thankful to be able to be around, you know, that energy for so long and had that part of my life, you know, even at Giant games pregame on the sideline and all. So but to answer your question, no, there was no pressure. I just felt like that was my life.

Liz: Yeah, it definitely sounds like, you know, that was a natural step for you and obviously, it’s still now a natural step for you to be involved, like you say from the sidelines, your sister and stuff. So, no, that’s really cool.

Brandon: Yeah. And I mean, the thing about football for me now and the gig that I do with the Giant TV and doing stuff for them and how I get to connect with the fans, I think that is a new passion for me as well. And like I get to do the Fan Cave. And I even did a Fan Cave in Flimby UK and Cumbria. I took the train from Manchester because I flew into Manchester and I hung out with a friend there for a little bit. And I took the train up to Carlyle and I took the train from Carlyle to Flimby and the guy up there, his name is Tony Little, he’s a huge Giants fan and he has a fan cave. And I go and I film these fan caves and we air them on our TV shows for the Giants and I went up there, you know, I hang out.

So that’s what I’m saying. I’ve done one in Germany as well, a Giant’s fan cave out there. So I love the fact that I’ve connected with the fans and I think that’s going to be what gets me into the NFL networks and the ESPN for their shows is my niche is going to be my connection with the fans. And that’s what I continuously work on with the Giants TV. And also I would love to do some stuff with the NFL UK. I’ve reached out to also Osi Umenyiora who was a former teammate of mine and you know, obviously, when all of this stuff calms down, I want to go over there and show reels or show what I could do for the NFL UK when it comes to content with the fans and all. I think being able to be connected to the fans the way I am through the Giants is going to help me tremendously in my career going forward.

Liz: Absolutely. And you know, it’s funny, I’m speaking to Osi next month as well, so yeah, I mean, what was that like playing with him?

Brandon: Yeah, Osi Umenyiora was the man. Around that time, he was a celebrity athlete at that time, you know, and that was before all the Instagrams and all that really blew up. Like Twitter was new. Social media was still relatively new in terms of athletes being able to use their brand to make money on social media and all. But Osi used to be on MTV Cribs, he was on MTV Cribs here. He used to date a supermodel and also he lives that cool rock star athlete lifestyle that a lot of, a young player like me at the time looked up to. That was my motivation in a way to have like a career like that. Not only was he taking care of business on the field but off the field, he was living that Derek Jeter ish, you know, tight lifestyle just in terms of the rock star athlete lifestyle.

So as a young kid and like he and Michael Strahan used to say how they had, Moxie was their word back then. And being like little bro, I’ve kinda like implemented that into my whole brand into like who I am. So being able to watch he and Strahan as a kid, I say as kids, when I was like a young pup, a rookie, being able to watch how those guys moved on and off the field or took care of business on and off the field, that right there, that helped shape and mould how I thought about sports and entertainment.

Liz: And I guess speaking of like personal brands, tell me more about this whole hashtag cultured athlete.

Brandon: A cultured athlete, I mean, that was my brand I created while I was in Canada, while I was playing football in Canada. Because I’ve always loved the culture of sports, everything behind the scenes of sports. You know, fandom, though the work that athlete puts in you know, physically the mental aspect of sports and just where people come from. So many different backgrounds when it comes to sports, sports lifestyle, sports culture, that it’s something that brings us together in a unique way. So the cultured athlete, that’s what I created when I was in Canada because as I was growing, I was maturing into something and I was maturing into being more cultured on all types of, not only events but politics, social injustices, like everything, entertainment, everything, you know, being spiritual, everything. So cultured athlete is kind of like the growth and journey that I’ve been on to refine myself.

Liz: I love that. I think that’s really cool.

Brandon: Yeah, I thought of it in a special team’s meeting in Canada. I was sitting there cause I wouldn’t play, I was inactive, I was hurt. And I was just sitting there writing down concepts and ideas and videos that I wanted to shoot. But I still had to be in the special team’s meeting because after I would finish since I couldn’t go practice or anything, I tore my meniscus about for the year, Coach Marc Trestman who used to coach for the Bears as well, and now he’s the head coach for the XFL Tampa Vipers, Tampa Bay Vipers or whatever, he used to let me go to…that’s when I started taking theatre classes. I enrolled in Montreal’s School of Performing Arts because I was hurt and I didn’t want to just go out to practice and just stand on crutches. So I asked him, I said, Hey man, can I go and start taking, you know, enrol in a theatre class and after I do my rehab and sit through meetings, when you guys go to practice, can I go to class for the day? And he okayed it and that’s when I started doing that. I believe that was 2012.

Liz: That was really cool that you kind of had the opportunity as well.

Brandon: Yeah. Well, that was a blessing, for sure.

Liz: Awesome. Well listen, it’s been so good to talk to you today and it’s been really cool to kind of hear your story. So yeah, thank you so much.

Brandon: Oh, this was fun. And hopefully, I can make it to one of your meet ups to share, you know, hopefully, travel is eased, you know, towards…first and foremost, I hope we can have a football season, but I would love to try and do something with you all go over there. You know, I would love to get over there and the first pint is on me.

Liz: Absolutely. Well, you’re always welcome over.

Brandon: Okay. Well, take it easy and thank you for having me on.

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